Shipments of fruit, meat, and wine are being held up in Chile this week as truck drivers protest the recent uptick in violence against them.
The Confederation of Chilean Cargo Transport (CNTC) and other truck drivers began the strike last Thursday, August 27th, in protest against the recent spike in attacks on truck drivers in south-central Araucania region and against the government’s slow-moving security reforms. The violence stems from an on-going conflict between the indigenous Mapuche people and the Chilean state, reports Reuters.
Because of this strike, many exports of salmon, fruit, meat, and wine bound for the United States, Europe, and Asia are stuck in Chile with no one to haul them to port. Six ships initially scheduled to deliver kiwi, apples, pears and citrus for the United States, Europe and Hong Kong have been unable to get their products into port, one of Chile’s largest Salmon producers is struggling to get supplies in or product out, and 290,000 tons of grain are still sitting on eight ships with no trucks to haul it away.
“There is practically no Chilean cargo that can leave or with the loads that should be leaving,” said Carlos Mondaca, a spokesman for San Antonio port, one of the country’s largest.
The strike and resulting backlogs could lead to a spike in food prices and even fuel shortages in some regions.
On Monday, August 31st, the Chilean government threatened to invoke a state security law that would penalize the striking drivers for blocking roads, but to no avail. Videos of truck drivers partying and dancing on the blocked interstates circulated the internet, complete with lingerie-clad women. Then on Tuesday morning, September 1st, a 55-year-old trucker involved in the protests was struck and killed by a semi truck hauling medication
Following these two events, Chileans are divided over whether the strike methods being used by the drivers are useful or even justified. Still, the Chilean government seems to be standing its ground after Jaime Bellolio, a government spokesman, spoke out on Tuesday, demanding that “truckers must stand down rather than threatening critical supply chains as the country struggles to restart its economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.”